Latin American Travel Association (LATA) Newsletter and COVID-19 Update
LATA Chairman, Colin Stewart, comments on the evolving Covid-19 situation in Latin America in the context of tourism:
“Latin America is around 60 days behind Europe with regards to the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic. The outlook is varied across the region with a number of different approaches ranging from compulsory lockdowns in some countries to softer guidelines in others. Likewise, the number of cases and associated deaths is strikingly varied. Many countries across the continent have had very few Covid-19 cases and corresponding fatalities whilst a few countries - particularly those that are more populous –report more worrying figures.
There is no doubt that the region’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the economic fallout which has meant that travel to the region, for the most part, has ground to a halt. That said, at LATA, it is encouraging for us to see the hard work that is ongoing across the region to ensure a safe and sturdy tourism recovery.
Our destination partners are working hard to implement their own health and hygiene protocols while many of our private sector members have received the WTTC’s Safe Travel Stamp for the measures they have taken to ensure visitor safety.
At LATA we have created a Covid-19 hub to showcase the latest information from our tourism board members particualrly in the context of travel and tourism. This will be updated on a regular basis to provide the most up-to-date information regarding travel and tourism to each specific country.
One of the things we are most proud of is the overwhelming support we have seen on the ground as those who rely on tourism struggle with the stark reality that a lack of travel brings. Many of our members have undertaken their own charitable initiatives to support those who need it most.
We will continue to vocalise all the good work our members are doing that often goes unnoticed and continue to showcase the true face of Latin America’s tourism industry.”
Destination Responses to COVID-19
Costa Rica looks to restart its tourism with the development of 16 health protocolsThe Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) and representatives of the local private sector have unveiled a list of 16 health protocols for the safe reopening of some of the country’s most popular tourism areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The protocols relate to tourism companies in a number of industries including accommodation, restaurants, tour operators, among others and establish guidelines on the use of face masks in public and private transport; the cleaning and disinfection of the equipment in tours and sports such as water sport activities; and how to apply social distancing rules when undertaking tourism activities. The 16 protocols were agreed by a committee of 68 professionals from both the country’s public and private sectors. www.visitcostarica.com
Quito gradually opening to international tourism
The Quito Tourism Board has announced a series of new measures to ensure the safe return of domestic and international tourism. The Quito International Airport resumed operations on 01 June with strict sanitary security protocols in place while the Ecuador Tourism Authority unveiled a series of guidelines and biosafety protocols to be implemented by all restaurants, hotels, attractions and establishments in general. These protocols include restaurants and coffee shops opening at 30% capacity, take-out orders being made by phone and staff and distributors wearing appropriate protection equipment. These measures have been put in place to restore confidence in local and international travellers when travelling in the destination. https://quitotravel.ec/en/
Colombia launches tourism biosecurity stamp
Colombia, with the support of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), has launched a tourism biosecurity touristic seal to certify that hotels, bar, restaurants and other operators and tourist attractions comply with protocols established by the national government to combat the spread of coronavirus. The objective of this seal is to generate assurance and confidence in travellers once tourism is reactivated as well as minimise the risk of infection while visiting Colombia. This seal is valid for two years and the government is committed to keeping track of the companies in the tourism sector who have been awarded this certificate. www.procolombia.co
Nicaragua prepares to reactivate tourism with biosecurity protocols and new investments
Nicaragua has announced plans to reactivate tourism (which was growing 25% annually in Jan/Feb) that follow biosecurity protocols, starting with domestic travel, before moving onto regional and finally long-haul travel; initially promoting land travel and outdoor activities. All tourism will take place within the framework of the National Protocol against COVID-19, a dynamic, tailored approach based on international co-operation (see the White Book, published 25th May). With the restart of tourism comes a number of new investments such as Puerto Salvador Allende, Managua’s dining / entertainment district, which is undergoing improvements and expansion, including 18 new eateries. Studies are also underway for a cruise port at Bluefields which would be the first on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. www.intur.gob.ni/
Panama praised for fast COVID-19 response and looks forward to reopening
Panama has been recognised by the WHO as one of the countries with the fastest response to its first case of COVID-19. Panama has decided to keep its borders closed to avoid further spread, however, it will gradually open its economy this year, keeping the health and safety of its population at the forefront. Panama is currently focusing on the revival of its domestic tourism, with the aim to welcome international tourists in the second half of 2020 or first half of 2021. The country has worked intensely with the local health authorities, as well as the WTTC on safety protocols and was one of the first countries to get the Safe Travels Stamp, guaranteeing the destination has the correct biosecurity procedures in place to give future travellers the confidence to travel to the country. Panama has further developed hygiene and sanitation protocols for each tourism activity, which have been approved by Ministry of Health Panama (MINSA). Alongside this, Panama are also working towards their Sustainable Tourism Master Plan objectives, such as greater economic and social wealth, the increase in national and foreign investments, and the enhancement of the diversity of resources, and the country is projected to achieve 50% of these goals by 2025. www.visitpanama.com
Uruguay features in EU “Safe List”
Uruguay has been featured within the European Union’s list of “safe countries” due to its epidemiological situation related to the coronavirus and quick response to its first cases. A relatively low rate of COVID-19 cases have been reported in Uruguay and the lockdown initiated on 13 March with the closure of university classes and quickly expanded to cover schools, shopping centres and the Argentine border. Chairman of LATA, Colin Stewart; says: “This example from Uruguay shows a positive illustration of how the pandemic is being managed in a country which borders Brazil and Argentina; and helps showcase a more diverse picture in terms of how the pandemic is being managed throughout the continent. This news gives us and many of our LATA members confidence that tourism to Latin America will bounce back soon.”
Mexico’s regional tourism boards introduce new measures to ensure visitor safety
A number of Mexico’s regional tourism boards have introduced new measures to ensure the safety of prospective visitors. For example, Riviera Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast has earned the Safe Travel Stamp form the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) for adhering to all hygiene protocols to protect the health of visitors. The destination is ranked as one of the top five safest cities in Mexico and is home to highly regarded hotel brands that are continuously upgrading their properties with the latest state-of-the-art technology and enhanced sanitation standards.
"Riviera Nayarit has complied with our protocols and we are confident the destination is ready to safely reopen to the “new normal” of travel and tourism”, said Gloria Guevara Manzo, president, and CEO of WTTC. Mexico is one of Latin America’s largest tourism destinations both in geographical size and market share meaning it is important that its regional tourism boards continue to work independently and cooperatively to ensure the safety of Mexico’s visitors. www.visitmexico.com / www.RivieraNayarit.com
Belize establishes new travel norms and guidelines for accommodation sector
As Belize’s tourism industry prepares to reopen to international travellers, new travel norms and guidelines have been put in place for the accommodation sector. The Belize Tourism Board’s priority is the safety of both its visitors and community which is why new operating protocols for hotels and restaurants have been established. These guidelines have been approved by the Hon. Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and will serve as the foundation for addressing the new health and safety challenges presented by COVID-19. In addition, the BTB is introducing the “Tourism Gold Standard Recognition Programme”. This programme focuses on enhancing hotel and restaurant cleaning practices, social interactions, workplace policies, and standard operating procedures, while ensuring minimal impact on the guest experience. https://belizetourismboard.org
Guyana’s coordinated response to COVID-19
The Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) is taking an integrated and coordinated approach that will assist the tourism industry and cushion the impacts caused by the pandemic. In an effort to expand the objective, the GTA will partner with the donors that usually support indigenous communities to supply a COVID-19 support package that include recommended Ecolab products and PPE. Supplies training and guidance will also be available to communities managing their own tourism enterprises. Aside from community support, the GTA will also be updating its hygiene and sanitation protocols, inspection checklists and continue to work closely with local stakeholders to develop their own processes. These measures have been designed to help Guyana’s travel and tourism industry better prepare for the new norm, educate a wide cross section of people and augment the work of the national entities that are leading Guyana’s response to COVID-19. www.guyanatourism.com
Chile presents health protocols to prepare for the reopening of tourism
The Chilean Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, together with the Undersecretariat of Tourism and Sernatur, announced that sanitary protocols and good practices for accommodation and restaurants are now being implemented. These measures seek to prepare the tourism industry to face the sector’s reopening phase once the peak of the pandemic in Chile has been overcome. Decreasing rates of infections in two regions has seen certain restrictions be lifted, in the Aysen region of Patagonia and in Valdivia in the Lake District, so that certain tourism activities can restart. The new sanitary protocols and hope to allow for the reopening of other tourism hotspots in Chile. www.chile.travel | www.travelart.com
Metropolitan Touring’s Roque Sevilla keeps indigenous culture alive amid COVID-19 crisis
Roque Sevilla, the visionary behind Mashpi Lodge, Chairman at Metropolitan Touring and former Mayor of Quito, has founded the POR TODOS fund which has raised USD $11 million for indigenous communities during their struggle with the COVID-19 crisis. The economic implications of lockdown have meant that many communities such as the Chachi and Shuar have found themselves completely cut off and at imminent risk of extinction. The POR TODOS fund, run voluntarily by many of the Metropolitan Touring staff, helps provide food and economic assistance to maintain social distancing, COVID-19 detection testing, respiratory triage centres and PPE provision for indigenous communities. Despite raising USD $11 million in the first nine weeks, Sevilla remains focused on reaching the ultimate goal of USD $20 million, which will allow POR TODOS to pass into its next phase of supporting individuals and small businesses to re-build themselves and in turn, their communities. www.portodos.ec
Journey Mexico raises over USD $10,000 for vulnerable families
Mexico specialist, Journey Mexico, has raised over USD $10,000 for vulnerable families in Mexico where travel and tourism accounts for more than 80% of jobs. Following a visit to a local market where the reality was stark with many of those people who rely on tourism suffering from the economic fallout of the crisis, Journey Mexico CEO and Owner, Zachary Rabinor, realised that just MXN $300 (approximately USD $13) would allow a family of four to be able to eat for a week. Within two weeks Journey Mexico had galvanised people within the industry, momentum picked up and reached the target of USD $10,000 to feed vulnerable families and produce 86,000 meals for families who ordinarily rely on the tourism sector. The plight is on-going and Journey Mexico is still receiving funds from all over the world to help families in these unprecedented times. www.journeymexico.com
The LATA Foundation provides emergency funds in response to COVID-19
In light of COVID-19, the LATA Foundation is supporting a range of emergency appeals in Latin America with funds being directed to those most in need. Support includes facilitating PPE for midwives serving in rural communities in Guatemala, providing essential meals for children from low-income families in Peru, financially assisting families in Quito, and supporting street children in Bolivia. Jude Berry, Chairman of The LATA Foundation comments, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting everyone’s daily lives, including those involved in the projects that we have the privilege of supporting in Latin America. We are responding to their requests for practical help as best we can in these challenging times. We are, as always, extremely grateful to our donors and our volunteers who make this possible. We hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well and safe, and we look forward to a time when we can all meet again.”
Colombian Journeys increases support during coronavirus crisis
Over the years, Colombian Journeys has increased its support of projects and foundations. Now due to the crisis, local hosts and their families have needed help in order to meet their basic needs. For example, suppliers in Cartagena took the initiative to help La Boquilla inhabitants in their fight against the economic fallout from COVID-19 given their main income sources are fishing and tourism. Since the quarantine began, donations have been received to shop for groceries and, every Saturday, deliver them to 150 different families. Colombian Journeys has also been supporting Impulse Travel, which works directly with 15 community projects in Colombia that are partially financed through tourism, and sought to raise US $30,000 in order to contribute to their cultural preservation and peacebuilding. The money raised is being invested in what communities need the most right now: covering basic needs and financing local sustainability initiatives. www.colombianjourneys.com
Private Sector News
Quimbaya Latin America launches new product collection, ‘Travel Differently’
Quimbaya Latin America has introduced a new product collection called ‘Travel Differently’ which has been designed for travellers looking for more nature, less flights and to be involved with local communities in a responsible way. This new collection is available in all 11 of Quimbaya’s destinations. One such example of a new ‘Travel Differently’ product is the nine-night ‘Colombia Extreme’ tour which travels to Bogotá, Zipaquirá, Barichara and Cartagena among others taking in the local cuisine, wildlife and rich cultural history of Colombia. For more information on pricing, visit www.quimbaya-tours.com
Amazonas Explorer presents the first of its series of “In Depth” tours to Peru
Amazonas Explorer has developed a “Covid Friendly" cultural tour to Peru whereby travellers are based entirely from their own exclusive villa, together with a private guide, chef, and driver. Guests will avoid crowded sites by hiking along rarely explored Inca trails and virtually deserted ruins through outstanding Andean scenery. This “in depth” tour is ideal for those eager to experience the amazing journey of discovery that is the Inca trail while doing so in a responsible and safe manner.
Amazonas Explorer has also created a GOFUNDME page to raise money for porters, muleteers and cooks who were reliant on the work that months of tourism would bring. With the tourism season never beginning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many have been left in a dire economic situation without food and basic necessities. The goal for Amazonas Explorer was to pay for 50 boxes of emergency food staples with a single box containing rice, sugar, cooking oil, tuna, oats and pasta to feed a family for two weeks. A box costs just S/100 / USD $30 / GBP £25 and within two weeks, thanks to generous donators, Amazonas Explorer reached its initial target of 55 boxes. The fund is still open to receive donations and Amazonas Explorer has enough for 165 boxes which will be sent out 55 at a time for the next three months. Given the uncertainty of the current global travel scene and the stark situation these workers are faced with, Amazonas Explorer is still accepting donations to its Help Peruvian Porters GOFUNDME page. www.amazonas-explorer.com
LATA members receive World Travel & Tourism Council’s new Safe Travel Stamp
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched the world’s first ever global safety and hygiene stamp. This stamp will allow travellers to recognise governments and businesses around the world that have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols – so consumers can experience ‘Safe Travels’. The landmark move by WTTC has also received the backing of the influential United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and more than 200 corporate executives from leading companies in the tourism sector. LATA is delighted to see many of its members, such as Alchemy DMC and Napo Wildlife Centre, joining the list of global businesses and destinations adopting these hygiene protocols. Earning the Safe Travel Stamp shows great commitment from businesses and destinations alike to the safe resumption of inbound tourism. This stamp is a great way of building trust and restoring confidence for travellers, which is a key factor for the reactivation of the tourism industry and many economies.
The new (and better) way of experiencing the Peruvian Amazon River – Muyuna Lodge
Muyuna Lodge, found in the Peruvian Amazon, has implemented a number of new protocols to ensure the safety of all guests when visiting the lodge. Beyond all the sanitary measures that align with the Peruvian government’s health protocols, the new reality includes a redesign of internal processes, a digital transformation, a new booking platform with more flexible cancellation policies for potential visitors and a client-centric mindset that will help protect guests at the lodge. Muyuna Lodge’s 20 plus years of experience will ensure that guests can enjoy the flora and fauna of the Amazon in the knowledge that they are in safe hands. www.muyuna.com.
andBeyond Vira Vira updates its health protocols
andBeyond Vira Vira in Chile’s Lake District has brought in a series of new measures to ensure guests remain safe while enjoying the lodge in maximum comfort. The lodge team, transfer hosts, guides, and filed staff have been educated on Covid-19, how to identify the symptoms, rules on personal hygiene, interaction with others, luggage handling, and cleaning and sanitation best practices. Furthermore, the lodge and team has been supporting the local Mapuche community with food parcels from the lodge’s thriving vegetable garden. www.andbeyond.com
Furlong Incoming joins LATA and commits to its own brand of sustainable tourism
Furlong Incoming, a leading Argentine DMC, with M.I.C.E, Leisure and Cruise Ground Operations, has joined the Latin American Travel Association (LATA). Furling Incoming believes that tourism must be a leading industry in sustainable development and, through its work with LATA, is committed to enhancing the positive effects of tourism in Argentina while reducing negative impacts that affect not only the environment but also local communities. Furlong offers culturally immersive tours, that support the sustainable development of organisations that work on improving life conditions across Argentina, with fairer distribution of tourism’s benefits and priority on the education of local youths. www.furlongincoming.com